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Europe shifts to the right: what does this portend?

Europe shifts to the right: what does this portend?
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Adding the non-allied AfD to the far-right parties, together they are likely to have won an additional 19 of the EP's 720 seats, with the conservative EPP gaining 10. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

Although not all the votes in the European Parliament elections have been counted yet, the trend is clear: the liberals, greens, social democrats and the left have lost ground, while the conservatives, right-wing populists and the far right have made gains. Hence, the balance of power in Strasbourg has shifted clearly to the right. Europe’s press debates how marked the shift is and how much of an impact it will make.

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A shock for all pro-Europeans

It won’t be possible to overcome the crises in Europe with the far right, Die Presse warns:

“An FPÖ victory in Austria, a resounding victory for the Rassemblement National in France, clear right-wing nationalist majorities in Italy and Hungary, a strengthened AfD in Germany: to varying degrees in each country, this is a shock for all pro-Europeans who seek common solutions. Because none of the major crises facing Europe can be surmounted together with these parties. They reject any kind of internal solidarity in the EU – whether it’s about a joint stance vis-à-vis Russia, tackling climate change, migration, or the emerging trade wars with China and a US under Donald Trump.”

Centre still intact

Too much is being made of the rise of the right, says The Daily Telegraph:

“In the Strasbourg parliament pro-EU centrists, Greens and socialists will hold on to a majority of seats, boosting the chances of Ursula von der Leyen securing a second term as European Commission president. Socialists won the largest share of the vote in Malta, Romania and Sweden, helping the centre-Left retain its position as the parliament’s second-largest group, albeit far weaker than in the 1990s. While the narrative is of a pro-Right surge across Europe, the reality is much more complex.”

EPP must show its true colours

The Tageblatt emphasises:

“The EPP is largely to blame for the normalisation of the far right and its current electoral successes. It adopted far-right political ideas and looked for common ground. The results are now clear for all to see, and instead of celebrating their first place the conservatives should bow their heads in shame. For helping the far right to become socially acceptable. And above all, they should think about which side of history they want to be on – the one that advances Europe, or the one that propagates nationalism and thus the very opposite of the European idea. … The Christian Democrats of the EPP must now show their true colours.”

Break with Brussels’ arrogance

The shift to the right will also have to be reflected in the EU Commission, demands De Telegraaf:

“The first contours of cooperation are becoming visible in Brussels. The Social Democrats and the Liberals have lost, but they’re not lowering their sights. They’re actually increasing the pressure on the largest party, the EPP, threatening to withdraw their support if it cooperates with far-right blocs. This is the notorious Brussels arrogance of the pro-Europeans, who are deaf to the democratic voice of their citizens. The ball is now in the court of the member state governments who will decide the composition of the new European Commission. This body will also have to shift to the right for the sake of better representation.”

LIttle chance of turning rhetoric into reality

The winners from the far-right parties will have a hard time implementing their plans, says The New Statesman:

“For the New Right, winning may come to be seen as the easy part. … If they want to change the direction of the EU, Meloni and Le Pen will need to confront Brussels head-on. … They retain, as Meloni told a conference in Madrid last month, the intention of stopping the EU’s further integration, and forcing a return of powers to national parliaments. It’s an almighty goal for this new Franco-Italian engine to have set itself. And in the absence of the strong domestic background that allowed France and Germany to build the EU in the first place, it remains to be seen if they can turn rhetoric into reality.”

Left lacks credibility

El País comments on the collapse of the left:

“The slump in support for social democracy, the radical left and the Greens shows that the problem is not that social democracy has been too lukewarm and conformist, nor that the radical left has been too aggressive. They don’t need to adapt their programme but to regain their credibility to be able to offer the people better times. In short, the problem is not that people are not in favour of equality and social justice, but that the citizens don’t trust the left-wing parties to achieve these goals – some of them because they are too entrenched in their ideology and others because they are too enmeshed in the system, and all of them because the wind of history is blowing against them.”

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